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Social and Behavioral Aspects of Energy Use

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Annual Review of Energy and the Environment, Volume 18, Number 1, p.247-289 (1993)



energy and society, energy demand--human factors, energy in organizations, household energy consumption


The role of human social behavior has been largely overlooked in energy analysis, despite the fact that it significantly amplifies and dampens the effects of technology-based efficiency improvements. Noting this fact, Schipper concludes with some irony that: "...those of us who call ourselves energy analysts have made a mistake... we have analyzed energy. We should have analyzed human behavior." Although scattered across social science disciplines, a body of research concerned with human factors in energy use does exist that can be applied in energy analysis. This chapter reviews that literature. Its primary focus is on household consumption--the area where most behavioral research has concentrated--but it also considers macro-social consumptionp rocesses. The review is divided into seven sections in which the following topics are discussed: behavior and variability in consumption; public opinion and conservation attitudes; price and information; billing and rates; consumer knowledge and the social contexts of consumption; micro-behavioral studies of actor-building-technology systems; and the macro-social organization of energy use. It concludes with a discussion of knowledge gaps and limits to the expansion of needed research.